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The Common People of Ancient Rome

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The Common People of Ancient Rome.  Frank Frost Abbott

"How the armies of Rome mastered the nations of the world is known to every
reader of history, but the story of the conquest by Latin of the languages
of the world is vague in the minds of most of us. If we should ask
ourselves how it came about, we should probably think of the world-wide
supremacy of Latin as a natural result of the world-wide supremacy of the
Roman legions or of Roman law. But in making this assumption we should be
shutting our eyes to the history of our own times. A conquered people does
not necessarily accept, perhaps it has not commonly accepted, the tongue
of its master. In his "Ancient and Modern Imperialism" Lord Cromer states
that in India only one hundred people in every ten thousand can read and
write English, and this condition exists after an occupation of one
hundred and fifty years or more. He adds: "There does not appear the
least prospect of French supplanting Arabic in Algeria." In comparing the
results of ancient and modern methods perhaps he should have taken into
account the fact that India and Algeria have literatures of their own,
which most of the outlying peoples subdued by Rome did not have, and these
literatures may have strengthened the resistance which the tongue of the
conquered people has offered to that of the conqueror, but, even when
allowance is made for this fact, the difference in resultant conditions is
surprising. From its narrow confines, within a little district on the
banks of the Tiber, covering, at the close of the fifth century B.C., less
than a hundred square miles, Latin spread through Italy and the islands of
the Mediterranean, through France, Spain, England, northern Africa, and
the Danubian provinces, triumphing over all the other tongues of those
regions more completely than Roman arms triumphed over the peoples using
them."

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